President Paul Kagame on Saturday addressed Saddleback Church in Orange County California during an event held to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Speaking to thousands of Saddleback Church members, President Kagame described commemoration as a time to honor the lives lost and the resilience of survivors: "We remember the more than a million lives we lost in the Genocide. We honour the strength of survivors, as well as the resilience of Rwandans, that has kept our nation alive."
Introducing the President, Pastor Rick Warren described his leadership as key to Rwanda's development.
"I have never met a leader like Paul Kagame, he is an uncommon leader in an uncommon country. When the nation of Rwanda was destroyed to ashes, people said it can't be done. But it was done and Rwanda confounded its critics. Rwanda has chosen forgiveness. They are not denying the pain, they are willing to work together and move forward."
President Kagame pointed to reconstruction as one of Rwanda's challenges over the last twenty years.
"The Genocide destroyed Rwanda's social fabric which had been deliberately damaged over decades. Our work as a new nation in the last twenty years, has been about restoring social cohesion and the dignity of Rwandans. "
Addressing the criticism Rwanda has received over the years, Pastor Rick Warren said: "As Rwanda continues to be blessed, the criticism will ramp up, but Sibomana. Those critics are not God and Rwanda does not need their approval. God chose a nation the world turned its back on during its darkest hour to give the world a new model."
President Kagame attributed Rwanda's progress to a common quest for human dignity.
"Human dignity and aspirations are the same for every human being. In Rwanda, we sank so low, we couldn't go any lower. Our only choice was to move up. We look back and say we deserve better and we can do better."
Saddleback Church was founded in 1980 by Pastor Rick Warren. The church runs nine campuses in Hong Kong, Philippines and Argentina. Pastor Rick Warren is also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council of President Kagame.